Drivers have relived the agony of being trapped inside a shopping centre car park… for nearly four hours.
Visitors who parked at Manchester Arndale, the city centre’s main indoor shopping centre, said the situation was "nuts". One said it took two-and-a-half hours to go down one level.
It came after thousands visited the city centre on Saturday for its Christmas Markets and the Rugby League World Cup final, leading to huge congestion on the roads outside the Arndale.
The longest wait reported at the car park was three hours and 45 minutes, with other motorists saying they were stuck for more than three hours.
One shopper, Gulshan Blanton, told the Manchester Evening News after visiting from Winsford, Cheshire: “I was stuck for three hours and 45 minutes. I do not think that’s the very worst. It was very ridiculous.
“It was just nuts. I do not think I will be coming back this side of Christmas."
Another driver, visiting from Worsley, Salford, had two young children with him after they had attended a birthday party.
The dad, who asked to not be named, said: “We got back to the car at around 4.45pm. Then we went to drive out and we got about 10 yards and we were in a queue. We were on level 12 - you sit there for 10 minutes and you think ‘it should not take this long’.
“Time was ticking along and then it was about 7:10pm when we got to level 11… so it took two-and-a-half hours to go down one level.”
Overall, he was stuck for three hours and 20 minutes. “People were shouting and swearing and it all descended into chaos. The horns were constant. I could not leave the car because the children would have been on their own and they are too young to do that.
“I did not want to leave together [with the children] because then I would be the one blocking the traffic. It became very uncomfortable.”
He called for Manchester’s transport authority, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), and Manchester City Council to re-examine how they control traffic at peak times.
“They need to look at the traffic light sequencing... and the flow of traffic [out of the car park]. They have the data on the exit times so there’s no reason not to change the lights.
“I would never use that car park again, ever. It’s disgusting. They have a duty of care. It’s such a simple thing. They know there’s a problem... they can do something about it.
“The advert it creates for people outside the city is appalling. It’s actually a great advert for the Trafford Centre [the huge out-of-town shopping centre in Greater Manchester]. Nobody should be paying for that privilege, and they should be monitoring it and if there’s a problem, what are the measures to help?”
TfGM said it does “tweak” traffic light timings to help traffic flow when the city centre gets busy, but also suggested visitors could make their way into town on public transport.
The organisation’s head of highways, Peter Boulton, said: “We’d encourage anyone coming to Manchester to think about how they are going to get in, around and out of the city and to plan their journey in advance, avoiding the busiest times and routes where possible.”
Manchester City Council, which owns and manages the car park, said it was “sympathetic” to the drivers trapped in the car park, but the circumstances “were outside the council's control, therefore purchased tickets will still be valid”.
It added anyone who received a fine as a result of the congestion would have to follow the usual appeal process.